Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that doing the job alone just doesn’t work. I should’ve listened to Three Dog Night. They tried to teach me that “one is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do,” but I just wouldn’t listen.
Moses also learned the hard way about doing the job alone. In Exodus 18, we’re told about how Moses did everything in ministry by himself, and it caused problems on the job. It was tough on the people, Moses, and his family. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gave him wise advice and counsel. Simply put…he told Moses to delegate or die.
That’s good advice for us children’s ministers, too! When you do things that others can do, you keep from doing things that only you can do. And when you do the things in ministry that only you can do, that’s when you hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I know what you’re thinking. My volunteers can’t teach a class or do children’s ministry as well as I can. That may be true, but there was a time in your life when you couldn’t minister as well as you can now. Someone allowed you to get better by doing hands-on ministry. And we must give our volunteers the same chance we were given to learn by doing.
With these things in mind, take a look at 15 master delegation tips that’ll help you develop your volunteers through action.
1. Identify what you need to be doing. There’s a right way and a wrong way to delegate ministry to others. Delegation isn’t finding someone who’s willing and then dumping part of your ministry responsibilities on him. There are some projects that are easier to delegate than others. There are other projects that you should never delegate — and still others that if you do delegate, proceed with caution.
I’d recommend that you cautiously delegate the handling of difficult decisions to others. Jethro warned Moses of this very thing in Exodus 18:21-22: “But select capable men from all the people — men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain — and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.”
Also, you can’t delegate the responsibility of building relationships with your key workers. This is a job you must do. Vision setting, evaluation or fruit inspection, and the success of your children’s ministry are responsibilities only you as the leader should have.
2. Identify things others can do, and let them do those things. Once you delegate jobs, ensure that the responsible people are properly trained and coached. Next, identify areas where you could use a capable worker. Don’t just assign a task; empower a person to do the task well.
Some of the responsibilities I’ve chosen to delegate are teaching and care-giving responsibilities, such as hospital visitation, some counseling, home visits, and follow-up. You can also delegate some of the oversight of children’s ministry. Phone calls and the returning of messages are projects that can be delegated to others.
3. Qualify all workers. Jethro gave Moses requirements for workers in Exodus 18:21: “But select capable men from all the people.” A major rule of delegation is to qualify who you delegate responsibility to. Are they capable and able? If not, then help them become capable and able.
4. Define exactly what you want done. Everyone needs a job description. Especially volunteers! Give them checklists to show what you want them to do and to show you what was done.
Remember to always do what’s best for the children and not only what’s best for adults. Rotation doesn’t build volunteers through action. In verse 22 of Exodus 18, the judges were to serve at all times. This wasn’t a once-a-month job; it was an all-the-time commitment.
5. Train and teach those you recruit. You must model to others how you want it done. Classes are good, but hands-on training is better. Christians are the only people I know who confuse the word “training” with verbal instruction. Almost every secular job that offers training does so by verbal communication in addition to hands-on training and mentoring. You don’t have to be the only model. I use my master teachers and coordinators to help me train and equip others. Everyone should be helping in the training and equipping process.
6. Push authority down. It’s extremely important that you always delegate authority along with responsibility. One of the dumbest sayings I know is “The buck stops here.” There are many places for the buck to stop when you give authority to others. Those you delegate to can only carry out the tasks you desire with proper authority.
7. Put your heart into the level of leadership under you. People can’t represent you well if they don’t have your heart. And you can’t put your heart into your volunteer leaders without making a commitment to spend time with them. Take someone with you whenever you can. Be quick to pass on what you know to someone else. Allow those around you to ask questions. Establish excellent lines of communication. Take advantage of every communication tool available. I use meetings, memos, newsletters, faxes, and emails.
8. Establish accountability. Teach your volunteers how authority works. Help them understand the chain of command. I love flow charts; they’re the simplest way to show others structure and authority. Weekly reports are a must to help you follow up on what others are doing. Remember, people don’t do what you expect; they do what you inspect!
9. Support and encourage those who help you. It’s imperative that you build a support structure around your volunteers. This might sound wild, but the best way I know to show others you believe in them is by releasing them to do the work of the ministry. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
10. Dare to confront those who are doing it wrong. When you see things that need to be done differently, gently confront people. Don’t wait for things to become a problem. Be on the offense and deal with things as they come up. What if volunteers quit? Why be negative? If they quit, they quit. But what if they change and become super leaders?
11. Make corrections and changes when necessary. Every service can be better than the previous one if you make changes and corrections each week. I make a list each Sunday and then spend my week correcting that list. The next week, I get to make a new list.
12. Don’t let your volunteers get in a rut. Don’t keep doing the same old stuff in ministry. Watch out for complacency and familiarity. Keep volunteers excited by doing new things. Each week I look for things I can suggest to my volunteers: Hey, have you tried this? Keep things different. Different is good!
13. Always set the pace; be the leader. Be the kind of person you’d like to work for. Dare to lead no matter what. Give your volunteers an example to follow and a model worth imitating.
14. Don’t fret about what you don’t have. Concentrate on what you have. So many children’s ministers I know always talk about how many workers they don’t have instead of thanking God for the workers they do have. Commit yourself to help your volunteers grow into the next level as leaders.
Lead who’ll follow. If all you have to lead are kids, start with the kids. It doesn’t matter how many workers you need; start where you are. Jesus needed 12 disciples, but he didn’t recruit all 12 at the same time. He recruited them in ones and twos. If you have a few faithful teenagers, lead them. If you have only a few key adults, lead them. When you pour yourself into improving the abilities of those around you, God will give you more. You see, when you do small things well, God will make you a ruler over more. But the starting point is always right where you are.
15. As you experience success, don’t forget about the things you did that caused you to gain success. Don’t quit doing what has worked for you. My pastor, Willie George, tells us, “Dance with the one who brought you to the dance.”
As your ministry grows, keep a closeness among the workers. We’re a big church with a small-church closeness. Ask others about things you’ve done in the past that they enjoyed or that they miss. I now have people on my staff who were kids in my children’s ministry. I love to ask them, “What were the things I did or activities we had that stand out in your mind?” I’m finding that things that’ve worked in the past will work again. Also I’ve learned that the little things we do in ministry really count the most. I try to encourage my workers to never abandon the things they’re doing that are working.
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Delegation is not an option for those who want to succeed in ministry, but to succeed, you must take inventory of where you are. Start small and go from there. I try to train my team one worker at a time. Ask yourself and your volunteers, “What do I need to do differently? What volunteers do you see potential in?” Commit to coach volunteers and let them learn by doing.
Jim Wideman is a children’s pastor and popular speaker. To learn more about Jim’s leadership tape club, check out www.jimwideman.com.